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Fears as NCC announces new overhauls to control social media

NCC says no responsible government will allow unbridled use of mediated communication like social media to cause chaos and imperil lives and property

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IT News Nigeria:

Government apex telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said it is adjusting regulatory instruments to enable it control social media and other emerging internet related planforms.

This is according to its Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management (ECSM), Mr. Adeleke Adewolu at a gathering in Port Harcourt recently.

Government had vowed in August that it will not rest until social media is brought under control. Social media is a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through the building of virtual networks and communities. By design, social media is Internet-based and gives users quick electronic communication of content

A statement released NCC said it has become increasingly demanding for the Commission to make new changes aimed at “adjusting regulatory instruments and management tools to ensure regulations are fit for the future” .

According to Adeleke , the Commission is undertaking this through the “ongoing review of the Telephone Subscriber Registration Regulations to strengthen the framework for digital identity; and the review of the Spectrum Trading Guidelines to ensure more efficient use of spectrum.”

NCC is revamping itself for:

  • Telephone Subscriber Registration Regulations
  • Spectrum Trading Guidelines
  • New institutional foundations
  • Adapting governance frameworks

He explained that the adaptive regulation is aimed at ever changing social media space.

Social media control: why it matters now according to NCC

 Adewolu said that social media platforms allow instant communications without regard for impact or consequences. He insisted that self-regulation is possible, but “as we have experienced over and over again, an ill-considered post on social media can easily incite unrest and crises.”

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He bemoaned the fact that leading social media platforms have demonstrated a rather unfortunate reluctance to moderate the use of their platforms for subversion and harm. “So, we cannot trust them to self-regulate,” he emphasised.

According to him, self-regulation has not been very effective, and interestingly, “the largest platforms are global platforms and many of them are protected by their home governments.”

For instance, “Sc.230 of US Communications Act provides immunity to firms like Facebook and Google from responsibility for content disseminated on their media, although they still apply fair usage and community rules which enables them to self-regulate. However, as we saw with the case of the former US President Donald Trump – people are often able to disseminate negative content for a while before they are cut off. Mr Trump had over 87 million followers he engaged directly with,” the ECSM stated.

Another example he cited happened just few days ago when CNN reported that Facebook deliberately failed to curb posts inciting violence in Ethiopia despite the fact that its own staff flagged such posts, and that Ethiopia is listed as a high-priority zone, which has been fighting a civil war for the past one year. As Adewolu recalled, the UN Secretary General recently called for the regulation of social media platforms, and even the CEO of Facebook has made similar calls in the past.

“So, we cannot wholly depend on self-regulation. And whilst we cannot prevent citizens from freely expressing themselves on these platforms, it would be irresponsible for any government to allow unbridled use of these mediated communication to cause chaos and imperil lives and property. Government must act to protect social cohesion and national security,” he counselled.

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Social media
Barr Adeleke Adewolu

NCC on Censorship

On censorship, particularly tackling illegal and harmful content on over-the-top (OTT) platforms, Adeleke said NCC had to opt for “a middle ground that promotes safe use of digital service platforms without necessarily stifling the exercise of the citizen’s right to free expression as guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution.”

He explained that on technology platforms, censorship manifests in three scenarios, namely, restriction of person-to-person communications; restriction of Internet access generally; or restriction of access to specific content, which governments find objectionable.

This, he said, was pursuant to constitutional provisions such as those in Section 39(3) of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, as amended, which approves “any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society to prevent the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films.”

NCC social media
L-R: Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta; Member, Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Obinna Ogba; Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami; Chairman, Board of Commissioners, NCC, Prof. Adeolu Akande, and Deputy Director, Corporate Planning, Strategy and Risk Management (CPSRM), NCC, Ms Helen Obi, during the virtual launch of the Strategic Management Plan (SMP) 2020-2024 in Abuja.

See also: Nigeria Government vows to bring social media under control in new threats

Recalled, Nigeria Government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari said in August it is making efforts to ensure that social media is under control in the country.

The administration’s chief image maker, Mr. Lai Mohammed, infamous for strongly advocating for online media regulation, said Federal government will not rest until social media platforms are regulated.

He said Sahara Reporters’ claim that he sneaked out of Nigeria to the US to meet with Twitter operators to resolve the ban on the micro-blogging site in Nigeria is false and that unconfirmed reports like this buttress the need to regulated internet.

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